By Melanie Nathan, December 22, 2013.
Yesterday I received the disturbing news from Zimbabwe about a police attack on Zimbabwe’s LGBT group, GALZ, with reports of arrests and injuries.
I was informed by a source close to GALZ leadership that the annual Christmas party was raided by police in Bulawayo. Nine members of the group were taken into custody. It is believed that some were injured during the raid. This is not the first time the group has been targeted and raided. I have not verified these reports.
For security reasons, the celebration was apparently held at a safe location, and not at the GALZ offices. It seems that security was breached and 9 members of the group and/or guests were taken into police custody.
There is no clear law in Zimbabwe that could justify such a raid and the resulting detentions. It has been clear for some years that Zimbabwe authorities are intent on continuing to harass local human rights defenders, amidst the constant anti-gay rhetoric expressed by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
We await further confirmation, more information and updates. The GALZ website has no report, the Twitter and Facebook pages are silent. We are deeply concerned.
GALZ was formed in 1989 to provide gay men and lesbians in Zimbabwe with a network to facilitate communication within the gay community. By default the network also provided a space for bisexuals and other alternative people who sought more broad-minded company. Primarily concerned with providing the community with social events, the organization kept a low profile at its onset. However, with the growing awareness of the needs of the gay community as a whole within the country, GALZ initiated a program of outreach which inevitably led to the organization’s “outing”. Presently GALZ’ aim is to network broadly with other human rights organizations, the womens’ movement, AIDS initiatives and regional associates. The objective is to increase awareness of gay rights in as broad a forum as possible thereby integrating these rights with the other basic human rights for which civil society is currently battling.
UPDATED: I have received confirmation from a second close source that the raid di take place and arrests were made.
UPDATED; Of the 9 detained. 5 were charged with indecent behavior, and fines were paid where upon they were released. Often in cases such as this detained person would rather pay admissions than subject themselves to lengthy detentions pending bail and trials. I am informed this was indeed the case here. The human rights defenders involved are reporting that they remain in fear of further charges related to the current raid.